Planning for a fall return to campus

Dear Campus Community,

I write to you today about brighter days to come and to give you the information you will need to make plans for spring, summer and fall terms.

Spring and summer terms primarily remote; fall term primarily in-person

For Spring 2021, we will continue with primarily remote instruction at PSU and anticipate continuing to be mostly remote through the summer term. We have made the decision to continue virtual courses during this time because COVID-19 continues to pose a risk to our campus community, with a new, more infectious variant of the disease confirmed to be circulating in Oregon.

As sobering as the current rates of infection are, the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in Oregon has given us all reason to be optimistic that the end of the pandemic is finally within sight. While we do not control the supply of vaccines or decide which groups of Oregonians receive them first, we are strongly advocating for students, staff and faculty in higher education to be included among the groups being prioritized for access to vaccines. PSU hopes to be able to assist students, faculty, and staff in accessing vaccines as supply becomes available, following state and federal prioritization guidelines. 

We have every expectation that widespread vaccinations will cause infection rates to decline significantly over the summer, making it safe for us to resume in-person learning in the fall. Accordingly, PSU is planning for a return to primarily in-person instruction for Fall 2021. We are grateful for the continued partnership with the unions as we prepare for a safe return to campus in the fall. Just as we did prior to the pandemic, we will continue to offer an array of online courses and programs. 

What will remote spring and summer terms look like?

The PSU campus will continue to be open on a limited basis during spring and summer terms. While most courses and many services will be conducted virtually, we plan to continue to offer in-person services such as the residence halls, the library, study spaces, child care, and health and wellness services. Precautions and protocols remain in place, including mask requirements, physical distancing guidelines, size limits on meetings and events, enhanced cleaning and other safeguards recommended by local and state health officials.    

The spring course schedule will be available online starting February 1 and will include information about the delivery format for each course. Also online are instructions on how to register for classes. The temporary pass/no pass grading policy that has been in effect will continue during the spring term.  

Safely returning to in-person fall instruction

Wearing masks and observing social distancing greatly reduces the risk of transmitting COVID-19 in classroom settings. PSU has not had a single reported case connected to in-person instruction on our campus. As we work to safely reopen, we will build upon the policies, practices and protocols that have allowed residents of student housing, researchers and employees in essential positions to live, learn and work safely on campus the last several months.

In close collaboration with our public health partners and union colleagues, we expect to lay out in the coming months how we plan to bring employees — and eventually, students —  safely back to campus. Our Fall 2021 plans will follow public health guidance for social distancing, gathering size, mask-wearing, airflow, and additional safety measures. 

Confronting challenges head-on

Faculty, staff and students have shown courage and ingenuity in the face of a pandemic that has taken a toll on our entire community, upending our routines, causing businesses to close or lay off workers and creating crushing child care burdens for families. Higher education has been hit particularly hard as Oregonians have faced making difficult choices. 

Like other universities, we have experienced a decline in enrollment that is forecast to continue next year, posing serious budgetary challenges as we look ahead. We will have much more information to share soon about our budget picture, and our intention is to be transparent during this entire process. For now, I want you to know that I have absolute confidence that we will meet these challenges with the same indomitable, creative spirit that we have shown throughout the pandemic, and emerge stronger and more committed to our mission. 

As we emerge from this challenging time, I am encouraged by many of the early executive orders from President Biden’s administration that protect our public health, advance racial equity, preserve and strengthen protections for our Dreamer students, reverse the Muslim ban, and prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. We are on the cusp of recovery — for our nation, our community, and for our students — and PSU is ready to fuel that recovery, creating a more equitable and sustainable future for everyone.

Thinking ahead to a fall term where we are reunited in person fills me with excitement and hope, and I am looking forward to sharing more details with you over the coming weeks and months about how we intend to safely resume in-person instruction for Fall 2021.